Photographs lit by direct flash are terribly unflattering in almost every instance. How unflattering? According to the blog of dating site OkCupid, that blast of unfiltered light from your flash can add around seven years to your perceived age.
OkTrends, the official blog of the dating site OkCupid, is a great place to find fascinating analysis of the raw data generated by OkCupid users. This time around they collected 552,000 user pictures and then had 11,400,000 users make snap judgments about them. Among their findings was how direct flash changes peoples' perception of age and attractiveness.
Soft light can hide wrinkles, blemishes, devil eyes. The hard light of a flash often brings them out. As I illustrate with the dotted lines below, you can calculate the equivalent "aging" effects of a flash by counting years horizontally between the 'flash' and 'no flash' lines. For example, a 28 year-old who used a flash is as attractive as a 35 year-old who didn't. Trace the dotted lines to see what I'm talking about. Don't piss off Ming.
So what can you do to keep from aging yourself in photos? Your best bet is to use diffuse natural light like the kind you get when sunlight reflects off a white wall. Short of that you need to diffuse the light from your flash. You can turn a film canister, empty cigarette pack or drawer liner into a DIY flash diffuser.
If you're shooting with a point-and-shoot camera, you're stuck dealing with a lot of limitations imposed by the small size of the camera and the built-in flash. You'll definitely want to check out our guide to getting the most from your point and shoot camera to help mitigate those limitations. While you're at it, check out the most popular photography hacks of 2009 to get more ideas on how you can improve your photos.
Have a tip, trick or DIY solution to help your fellow readers snap better photos? Let's hear about it in the comments. For more interesting analysis of the OkCupid data on camera models and photos, check out the link below.
Don't Be Ugly By Accident! [OkTrends]